The above photo is a small piece of raw wool from a sheep shearing I attended last spring.  My  friend, Tammy, a fiber artist, invited my daughter and myself to join her at a shearing with friends.

I loved witnessing the shearing as it brought back childhood memories of my grandparents ranch.  I loved all the barnyard animals but especially the lambs.  My sister and I were allowed to help feed the bum lambs.  These feedings were quite the task as those little creatures could suck so hard it would almost jerk our little arms off.  We giggled a lot during those feedings, Grandma wasn’t always impressed with our technique.

I gathered that little piece of wool from the ground at the shearing, tucking it into my pocket for safe keeping.  I later placed it along with all my other treasures I have collected over the years in a special tray in my art studio.

I was fortunate to have spent time last weekend with a couple friends at a cabin in the mountains of Montana.  In the morning we walked along the shoreline of the lake, a beautiful spot to enjoy some fellowship and view the beauty of mother nature.  I picked up a wonderfully weathered piece of drift wood and asked my friend who owned the cabin if it was okay if I took it home.  She smiled and said of course.  She commented that she was getting rid of things rather than collecting them.  I few steps further I spied a white rock that I had to have, once again asking if it was okay to take it.  In the end I gathered a total of 3 “things” to take home with me that morning.  The drift wood, the rock and a penny that I spied in amongst the rocks of the shoreline in the water.  It had weathered beautifully and I loved the color the copper had turned after being  washed over and over again by the tide of the water.

Later I thought about what value these pieces along with all my other gatherings meant to me.  I’ve always collected whenever I travel but most often it is something from mother earth and not a purchase from a shop that means the most to me.  I have feathers, rocks, pine cones, sand, bark, even dirt from a mission in Taos that has spiritual meaning.  My father was a gatherer, he loved nature and always felt a kinship with all earthly elements.  I have a great respect for these elements and sometimes have guilt that I take them home as treasures.  If we all did this would there be anything left?  I’ll never know the answer to that but maybe it is time I stop gathering and just enjoy.  My friends statement made me think about whether these treasures are things or earthly elements not made of man.  I just know that I love the memory each of these earthly treasures holds for me.  They inspire me in my art and give me hope that life will continue to generate for future generations. Mother nature beautifully gives us so much, I want to respect her and be kind and step lightly upon her so others can enjoy her loveliness.

I will think twice about what I gather from this point on, hoping that these small elements of nature will continue to regenerate themselves.  I can’t image there never being another pinecone or another feather from a bird but I don’t have a crystal ball…what will our future hold.  Be gentle in your gatherings my friends…